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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Jordan Gives in to Protester’s Demands of Reform – US Should Help Ensure This Reform Takes Place

King Abdullah II of Jordan

As the wave of popular protest throughout the Middle East seems to be reaching its crest, King Abdullah II of Jordan is attempting to capitulate to demonstrator’s concerns before Egyptian-like protests erupt in his country as well. Today the king fired Prime Minister Samir Rifai and replaced him with former general and ambassador Marouf al-Bakhit in an effort to bolster more support for his monarchic regime. The new Prime Minister is widely seen as untainted by corruption, and also an American ally because of his work in crafting a peace agreement with Israel, giving it an air of legitimacy to two key constituents.

Mr. Bakhit’s first task as the new PM is to “[take] steps to start a political reform process… [To] bolster democracy [and] nation building that opens the scope for broad accomplishment to all dear sons of our country and secure them the safe and dignified life they deserve,” states the official announcement of transition. The New York Times reported, “Reactions among protest leaders were cautiously positive. Nahed Hattar, a leftist activist, said in a telephone interview that he considered the change a good move but that he wanted to see the government program before rendering a judgment.” Indeed Jordanians should ask themselves why King Abdullah, like President Mubarak, would bring about democratic reforms that would spell an end to his rule. But, at least for now, the people of Jordan are only calling for economic reform and more government accountability.

The US should aggressively work with their Jordanian counterparts to ensure this reform takes place. If we have learned anything from Egypt and Tunisia it is that ‘our dictators’ in the region are clearly not as stable as we thought. We should continue to use the leverage of military aid to tell these dictators, and perhaps more importantly their generals, that they must proceed with reforms if they expect our financial support, like we have done in Egypt. President Obama was right in his State of the Union to say that “The United States of America supports the democratic aspirations of all people,” but he should follow up on that by taking concrete actions, before the momentum is lost.

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